The Tour de France could get under way in Edinburgh after race organisers inspected the city with a view to staging its Grand Départ – which is often held outside of France – in 2017.
If the Scottish Government- backed bid is successful, the race would begin in the Capital with a time trial before competitors take part in later events in the Borders and England.
Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie, the city’s festivals and events champion, met race organisers last year.
“They were non-committal, but I did get the impression that they liked what they saw,” he said. “They know about the history and expertise we have, and this is another example of the way this city can attract major events.
“We’ve had cycling before but not anything of the calibre of the Tour de France.”
It is hoped that the Grand Départ would attract thousands of spectators and showcase Edinburgh to an international audience.
Councillor Cardownie added: “The race goes out to an audience that wouldn’t watch a travel show. They’d tune in for the Tour de France and end up seeing Edinburgh. I’m sure the overhead shots would be spectacular.”
EventScotland, British Cycling and UK Sport have joined the Scottish Government and recently stepped up efforts to bring the Grand Départ to the Capital.
Paul Bush OBE, chief operating officer of EventScotland, said that the bid had been five years in the making. He added: “The Tour de France is one of the most iconic events in world sport, and we are determined to deliver a strong proposal.”
Tourism chiefs said race organisers from Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) would have been impressed by the Capital. Lucy Bird, chief executive at Marketing Edinburgh, said: “There is nowhere else that can compare with our historic setting and so it’s easy to imagine the riders navigating our hilly streets with Edinburgh Castle in the background.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said: “To bring such a fantastic event to Scotland would be a huge coup, but we have a strong track record and I know that the country has a huge amount to offer ASO and the cyclists taking part.”
The Grand Départ generated an estimated £100 million for London and Kent in 2007.
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